Involvement of senior pros like Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Ali Price in ‘protocol breach’ will leave Gregor Townsend disappointed

Late night drinking shenanigans are so deeply ingrained in the Scottish sporting psyche that the allegations around an unauthorised booze up involving six members of the national rugby team are likely to provoke shrugs of indifference from many.

Players celebrating a much needed win with a few pints feels like a tale as old as time itself.

The difference here is that in the professional era such antics are no longer acceptable when a) squad members were apparently forbidden from going out and b) another game against a side they haven’t beaten for five years was only seven days away.

And it is for those reasons that you suspect the reserves of goodwill towards this side may start to dwindle.

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As talented a group of Scotland players as has been assembled in the Six Nations era, many tipped them to challenge for the title this season. Instead, after an opening day win over England, Scotland posted losses against Wales and France.

Last weekend’s victory in Italy was the least that was expected given their opponents' miserable run.

According to the BBC report, Scotland returned from Rome and six players “broke team protocols” by leaving their team hotel to visit a bar in Edinburgh.

The most disappointing thing for head coach Gregor Townsend will be number of senior Scotland players involved and, in particular, the reported participation of captain Stuart Hogg.

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Darcy Graham, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell are among the six players said to have left the team hotel to visit a bar in Edinburgh after returning from Rome. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He was allegedly joined in the bar by Finn Russell, Ali Price, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham and Sione Tuipulotu.

Four of the six will start in Dublin on Saturday, with Russell on the bench.

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Scotland discipline six players including Finn Russell and captain Stuart Hogg a...

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His demotion from team talisman to replacement has been the story of the week and his involvement in this escapade will inevitably put his relationship with Townsend under scrutiny.

The pair became estranged on the eve of the 2020 Six Nations when Russell walked out of the team hotel following a row over his wanting to have a drink on his arrival from France.

Townsend and Russell repaired their relationship during the first lockdown with the coach concluding he could have handled the situation better.

Russell returned to the fray and won a call up to the 2021 Lions tour, playing a key role in the final Test.

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Townsend’s patience might now be wearing a little thin. At 29, Russell should still be in his peak years but finds himself displaced in the Scotland starting XV by Blair Kinghorn, a relative novice at stand-off.

How the extravagantly gifted playmaker reacts to this latest disciplinary dressing down will be fascinating.

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